Statement of Significance

The High Weald is one of the best preserved medieval landscapes in Northern Europe.

Despite its large size, and proximity to London, its landscape has remained relatively unchanged since the 14th century, surviving major historical events and social and technological changes.

Its beauty stems from the high proportion of natural surfaces and its distinctive and human-scale character, with the story of its past visible throughout.

The extensive survival of woodland and traditional mixed farming supports an exceptionally well-connected green and blue infrastructure with a high proportion of semi-natural habitat in a structurally diverse, permeable and complex mosaic supporting a rich diversity of wildlife.


The total size of the High Weald AONB – it is the largest AONB in South East England and the fourth largest in England and Wales.

The natural beauty of the High Weald comprises:

Five defining components of character that have made the High Weald a recognisably distinct and homogenous area for at least the last 700 years:

  • Geology, landform and water systems – a deeply incised, ridged and faulted landform of clays and sandstone with numerous gill streams.
  • Settlement– dispersed historic settlement including high densities of isolated farmsteads and late medieval villages founded on trade and non-agricultural rural industries.
  • Routeways – a dense network of historic routeways (now roads, tracks and paths).
  • Woodland – abundance of ancient woodland, highly interconnected and in small holdings.
  • Field and Heath – small, irregular and productive fields, bounded by hedgerows and woods, and typically used for livestock grazing; with distinctive zones of lowland heaths, and inned river valleys.

Land-based economy and related rural life bound up with, and underpinning, the observable character of the landscape with roots extending deep into history.

An increasingly broad-based economy but with a significant land-based sector and related community life focused on mixed farming (particularly family farms and smallholdings), woodland management and rural crafts.

A smiling woman holding a cabbage in a field of cabbages

Other qualities and features that are connected to the interaction between the landscape and people and which enrich character components.

Such qualities and features enhance health and wellbeing, and foster enjoyment and appreciation of the beauty of nature.

These include locally distinctive features which enrich the character components such as historic parks and gardens, orchards, hop gardens, veteran trees, along with their rich and varied biodiversity, and a wide range of appealing and locally distinctive historic buildings including oast houses, farm buildings, Wealden Hall houses and their associated features such as clay-tile catslide roofs.

People value the wonderful views and scenic beauty of the High Weald with its relative tranquillity.

They appreciate the area’s ancientness and sense of history, its intrinsically dark landscape with the opportunity to see our own galaxy – the Milky Way – and the ability to get close to nature through the myriad public rights of way.


An aerial shot of a steamtrain on the bluebell railway